SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EEA) Revision, Q3 2019 Update

Significant progress in the SEEA EEA revision has happened since the last update on in Q1 of 2019 newsletter. Most notably, the 2019 Forum of Experts on SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting took place in June that gathered 115 participants over two days in Glen Cove to discuss the advances on ecosystem accounting (more on the Forum was already reported in the Q2 newsletter). Right after the Forum of Experts, the Technical Expert Meeting on the revision of the SEEA EEA 2019 took place with the aim of advancing the technical discussions for the SEEA EEA revision in the four research areas - spatial units, ecosystem condition, ecosystem services, and valuation. The Technical Expert Meeting (TEM) was particularly crucial to decide on the direction for the work in each of the areas.


In the area of spatial units, Working Group 1 (WG1) drafted three discussion papers - on ecosystem type classification, on ecosystem assets in urban areas, and on treatment of atmosphere and oceans, as well as two background documents that complemented the discussion papers (all papers available on the revision website). The discussion papers were distributed to a large group of experts for expert consultation that took place in May 2019. Rich and constructive comments were received from 25 experts that were largely supportive of the approaches taken. The summary of the comments was presented to the Forum of Experts and the TEM. It was decided that WG1 will, in the second half of 2019, focus on testing of the IUCN classification and provide a crosswalk to the other classifications considered, in particular the USGS/Esri one.


In the area of ecosystem condition, WG2 also drafted three discussion papers – on purpose and role of the condition account, on a review of case studies (supported by an online supplement), and on a typology of condition variables. The discussion papers went through an expert review in March/April 2019, which produced very rich and largely supportive comments from 28 experts. The comments were analyzed by the group and updated versions of the discussion papers were prepared for the Forum of Expert and the TEM (available on the Forum website), which further discussed the approach and provided guidance on treatment of reference condition, among other. Final versions of the discussion papers have been published after the Forum of Experts (all papers available on the revision website). For the second half of 2019, WG2 will likewise focus on testing of the methodology proposed in the discussion papers and aim to gather a list of indicators as examples for the compilation of the ecosystem condition account.


In the area of ecosystem services, two background papers were prepared for the Forum of Experts – on defining ecosystem services and on the main cross-cutting issues (available on the Forum website). The Forum of Experts and TEM participants provided ample guidance on how to take this research area forward. It was decided that WG3 will draft two discussion papers in the latter part of 2019 –on proposing the definitions and a list of ecosystem services and on the main accounting issues related to ecosystem services. These two papers are currently being drafted and are expected to be sent for expert review in Q4 of 2019.


In the area of valuation, WG5 drafted three discussion papers for the Forum– on definitions of values, on valuation of ecosystem assets, and on ecosystem degradation and accounting treatments (available on the Forum website). Based on the discussion during the Forum of Expert and the TEM slightly revised drafts of the first two papers have been subsequently distributed to a wide expert review group for consultation in August 2019. 22 expert comments were received, and they are currently being analyzed. The issue paper on degradation and accounting treatments will be split into 2 papers, that will be circulated mid-November to a wide expert review group. WG5 also submitted a paper on Linking the SNA and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Experimental Ecosystem Accounting to the 13th Meeting of the Advisory Expert Group on National Accounts that took place on 1 - 3 October 2019 in Washington, D.C. The fifth issue paper on externalities is expected to be distributed for expert review at the end of Q4 of 2019.


More broadly, the SEEA EEA revision process will be linked to the SNA revision process through the ISWGNA Subgroup on Well-being and Sustainability which has a specific subgroup dedicated to SEEA related research topics. In parallel, Working Group 5 has also engaged with the IPBES Values Assessment.


The SEEA EEA revision Editorial Board and drafting of chapters for the revised SEEA EEA. The UNCEEA, at its meeting in June 2019, decided that the well functioning SEEA EEA Technical Committee, extended with the area leads and all the co-publishing agencies, will act as the Editorial Board for the revised SEEA EEA. As a result, the Technical Committee now meets regularly, on a monthly basis, to review and provide guidance to the editor that has started drafting the chapters of the revised SEEA EEA.


To keep the interested public engaged and distribute the latest version of publicly available materials, we now keep an updated page dedicated to the SEEA EEA revision at: You are invited to check it regularly and keep in touch with the particular topics of your interest.